Ukip leader Henry Bolton is set to be expelled from the party after refusing to stand aside, a senior party source has told HuffPost UK.
The grim prediction came after the under-fire leader was offered the chance to resign with dignity during a crunch meeting with Ukip’s ruling body on Sunday afternoon.
Even after members of the National Executive Committee held a vote of no confidence in Bolton’s leadership, he was given the chance to step down and have the vote effectively wiped from the record in order to spare his blushes.
But after considering the offer for around 20 minutes, Bolton decided to fight on, meaning the anti-EU party needs to call an Emergency General Meeting within 28 days to allow members to decide if whether to oust the leader.
Since yesterday’s developments, more of Ukip’s frontbench have resigned in protest at Bolton’s leadership, including deputy leader Margot Parker and Education spokesman David Kurten.
Speaking to HuffPost UK, a senior source with intimate knowledge of Sunday’s NEC meeting said: “We may well have to expel him from the party after the EGM.”
Bolton arrived for Sunday’s NEC meeting after touring TV and radio studios in an attempt to firm up his position as leader.
Reading from his iPad, the former soldier gave a ten-minute presentation to the committee on why he should remain in post.
Bolton then took questions from the NEC, although not everyone present chose to grill the leader.
One source said: “His case was ‘It will be of more damage to the party if I go’.
“He also said the party will fall apart if you force a motion of confidence against him, which was not the most effective of arguments with those in the room.
“He fell into the trap of feeling it’s a plot by some people, but none of those people who accused have any influence over the people in the room.”
As well as questions over his conduct in the Jo Marney affair, Bolton was also quizzed on what he had achieved as Ukip leader since being elected in September 2017.
“Why hasn’t he be doing press releases or YouTube videos whenever something to do with Brexit came up?” another source told HuffPost UK, adding: “He seemed to be suggesting that he was too busy fighting fires with all the media circus around his relationships.”
One NEC member replied that showed why he is not a suitable person to be leader.
Bolton’s claims of plots against him from disgruntled former Ukip leadership contenders were also dismissed by the NEC, with members pointing out that all political leaders face internal battles.
“If you don’t understand that then you are wholly unsuitable for the job,” one member told him.
During one exchange, Bolton was asked if he believed forcing an EGM would destroy the party.
“No, it’s the NEC that will destroy the party,” he is said to have replied.
Another incident used against him was his perceived absence from the debate when Ukip Welsh Assembly Member Gareth Bennett was banned from speaking in the Senedd.
Bennett received the ban in December after saying society could “implode” if there is too much “deviation from the norm” during a speech about transgender rights.
The ban stayed in place until apologised for the comments a month later, but some Ukip NEC members felt Bolton should have been vigorously defending Bennett on the grounds of free speech.
After Bolton’s grilling, the meeting broke up for coffee, and when it reconvened the Ukip leader was dismissed from the room so the NEC could decide the next course of action.
Following a discussion, the members decided to issue a vote of no-confidence in the leader – but were willing to let him resign first.
“We would have never mentioned the vote of no confidence if he resigned, we were going to do him a lovely press release,” said a source, adding: “He could stand as a candidate and be part of a committee or something.
Two members of the NEC went to see Bolton, and after 20 minutes they returned to the meeting along with the leader.
Bolton had rejected the offer, and insisted that the party members who elected him just four months ago should decide his fate.